Nothing stings a company more than a piece of bad news that is widely shared. Not only must it reckon with the bad news internally, but the ramifications almost certainly mount as more people learn of the problem.
No, this post isn’t about healthcare.gov. Last week, the Consumer Reports National Research Center released the latest rankings of cell phone carriers. Sprint finished last.
The Reuters story is brutal. The site reports that Sprint got a score of 59 points out of 100 points and recorded “dismal marks” in voice quality, 4G reliability and other factors. Consumer Cellular was tops, with 88.
It was quite a regression for Sprint. Last year, the carrier trailed only Verizon Wireless among the top four carriers. Verizon won again this year with a score of 71. T-Mobile clocked in at 64 and AT&T 63. The ratings were based on a September survey with a huge sample of 58,399 subscribers.
Judging from that result, Sprint is in need of help. And it may be on the way. On October 30, the company announced Sprint Spark, a new network that it claims will offer peak speeds of 50 to 60 Megabits per second (Mbps). The plan is to deploy Spark in about 100 American cities during the next three years. There is limited initial availability in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Tampa and Miami, the company said.
It will be a while before a true read on the success of Sprint Spark will be evident. Laptop wanted to go beyond the demo offered by the carrier and took the HTC One Max — one of the four phones on which it is available — into the field in Manhattan. The results were mixed. For instance, average Web load times were about same, but Sprint’s download and upload speeds were much faster. The site’s conclusion was positive:
Sprint’s Spark network is definitely speedy. During our testing Spark boasted download speeds that were twice as fast as AT&T’s at our first location and three times as fast at our second site. There wasn’t much of a difference when it came to loading websites, but you should see more of difference when downloading larger files like apps and videos.
The story noted that the Samsung Galaxy Mega, Galaxy S4 Mini and the LG G2 also are available on the Sprint Spark. If those speed differentials hold up as the network expands, and it’s a big if, Sprint may be on its way to a better finish in the Consumer Reports competition next year.
The carrier seems to be at a vulnerable point. For instance, on November 20, Sprint experienced an outage in north and central Florida that apparently centered in the Jacksonville area. The company offered the odd excuse to a Cox Media reporter that the outage was caused by “wireless noise.”
Sprint made other announcements this month. One was the introduction of Sprint Phone Connect System 1. The key is that the home phone product relies on its cellular rather than the wireline network. The CNET story says that it is aiming Phone Connect System 1 at cord-cutters. The company also announced that it is joining the other major carriers in eliminating premium texts, which often are used for fraud.